About 5-6 weeks ago I livestreamed the installation of the K&K Pure Mini pickup in my Ibanez EW20-ASNT. I was quite impressed with it at the time, however, I noted then that I would provide a more thorough review of the pickup after I’d had a chance to try it live, in my lesson studio, and other situations. Since then, I’ve tried it out in all sorts of setups and venues. I’ve tried it hooked straight into an amp in my lesson studio, I’ve tried it running into a small PA in a dingy little bar, I’ve tried it on a proper stage with monitors blasting the sound back at me, I’ve tried it in all manner of scenarios and I’m no less a fan than I was on day one!
As I mentioned in the livestream, when I was researching pickups for that guitar, everybody was recommending the Fishman or L.R. Baggs systems. I even made it a special point to check out various acoustic pickup manufacturers while I was at NAMM this past January. I hadn’t seen or heard any recommendations for the K&K. It wasn’t until after I’d tried out their Twin Internal mandolin pickup (and been thoroughly pleased with it) that I decided to look into their acoustic guitar pickups. The various demos that I watched and listened to showed me a pickup that got much closer to capturing the acoustic sound of the instrument than many of the other systems I had looked at. Microphone equipped systems like the Fishman Infinity, L.R. Baggs Anthem, and the Seymour Duncan Mag Mic sounded quite good, however they were also significantly more expensive than the K&K Pure Mini. I also liked that the Pure Mini was passive. I don’t have anything against active pickups or systems, but never having to worry about the battery dying on you is a nice bonus.
In my research, many folks pointed out that the K&K was significantly more susceptible to feedback than other systems. This wasn’t a huge concern for me, as I don’t play live acoustic guitar that often (although I am doing so much more since installing this pickup). I figured if the feedback was a problem, a sound hole cover would likely fix the issue for just a few bucks. However, I’ve had hardly any issues with feedback in the 5-6 weeks I’ve had it installed! The only time I’ve had feedback issues is in my lesson studio when I’ve got kids playing trumpet or saxophone. I’m in a tiny room, I’ve got the amp a little louder than normal, and horns blaring straight into the sound hole. It’s not a great environment. The feedback isn’t unmanageable though. Whenever it started up, I had no trouble stopping it. Having the piezo elements mounted underneath the bridge plate means that you’ll have to dampen the sound board as well as the strings, but that’s no trouble.
But how does it sound?! I imagine you asking… well, great! I’ve always loved the sound of that guitar. It’s very bright and it sits perfectly in a mix without any additional EQ or tweaking. Whenever I record with it, a good microphone is all that I need. I wanted that guitar to sound as good on stage as it does in the studio, and now it does! It also sounds great recording direct, which is excellent if you don’t have access to a quiet studio. Below I’ve included a few samples of the recorded sound. I recorded these direct into Audacity with an old M-Audio JamLab USB interface. It’s nothing fancy, but that’s the point! If you’re in a nice studio, you’re probably going to just record your acoustic guitar with a pair of condenser mics or something like that. You’re not going to record the pickup direct. But recording with a microphone isn’t an option (perhaps you live in a noisy neighborhood) or if you’re just on a really tight budget, this pickup is perfect. It’s inexpensive, easy to install, and it sounds great. Give it a listen for yourself below. As a bonus, I’ve included a clip that A/B’s the direct sound of the pickup with a clip from Fox & the Red Hares’ song “Beneath Boot Hill”, which was recorded with the same guitar, but mic’d. I’m using a fresh set of DR Zebra strings in a custom light gauge.
K&K also make a variety of preamps designed to compliment the Pure pickups. While I’m quite satisfied with the sound of the pickup by itself, I’m interested to hear how the preamp can make it sound even better. I’m particularly interested in the Pure XLR Preamp, which serves the additional function of a DI. If I end up getting one, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on it as well.
K&K Pure Mini
- Inexpensive (only $99 from many online retailers)
- Easy installation (it only took me an hour, power drill required)
- Passive (no batteries, no big preamp unit to install)
- Doesn’t alter the appearance of your guitar
- Provides a great, natural, acoustic sound
- More susceptible to feedback than other systems (but not problematically so)
- No volume control (although that’s an easy mod, and K&K sells an add-on)